HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO)—The aftermath of the winter storms continue to affect several of undocumented farmworkers in the Rio Grande Valley.
The lingering effect have made farmworker asked to not go to work until further notice by their employers.
A farmworker, who wished to not be identified and refer to as “Susan,” said she faces a greater financial impact and fear farmworkers may face days before they are able to return to normal.
“There’s no more work, all the plants died,” said Susan. “There is just nothing at all.”
The produce industry took a hard hit from the winter season.
Another farmworker by the name of “John,” said employers usually sends them a text message when there is work is available, but no one has reached out to him since last week.
The farmworkers that are called into work said conditions are not sanitary after the storm and are they are not able to drink from a clean cup when they want water.
“There are not any masks, they don’t have enough cups for each person,” said another undocumented farmworker. “The restrooms are dirty, there’s nothing to protect us.”
Farmworkers are the hands that feed the produce industry, but they are not considered essential workers. The ones that are undocumented do not qualify for unemployment.
Elizabeth Rodriguez, a farmworker justice advocate from the non-profit La Union Pueblo Entero, said she considers them essential workers and they have been suffering since the pandemic started.
“Once the pandemic started and stimulus checks were distributed, there was a clear line where certain people didn’t meet the qualifications,” said Rodriguez.
Farmworkers are expected to supply their own tools and faced the pandemic head-on with no promise of Person Protective Equipment (PPE).
“In the fields there are not gloves and in the beginning of the pandemic there were no masks, and we also have to bring our own tools because they don’t have any,” said an undocumented farmworker.
“When you go grocery shopping, when you’re doing your barbecues, ask yourself who picks that crop for you,” said Rodriguez.
These farmworkers are searching for work where they can, but beets are spoiled, and the watermelon harvest has not begun.
Local organizations are trying to help undocumented farmworkers, but there are no definite initiatives in place yet.